The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Spain and Catalonia:
The Arm Wrestling Continues

Oct 30, 2017

The following article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière [Workers Struggle], the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name.

For months, the status of Catalonia has dominated Spain’s political life. On October 1, 2017, the Catalan independence parties – those on the right, the left, and the far left – organized a referendum on independence. The central government in Madrid declared the referendum illegal.

Neither the banning of the referendum nor the deployment of the police stopped two million Catalans from voting and from expressing their discontent with the politics of the central government by voting for independence. As it had said it would, the central government in Madrid declared the results null and void.

Since then, the Catalan legislature declared independence, and the Spanish government responded by dissolving the legislature.

Today, with the economic crisis hitting Spain, like the rest of the world, and throwing society backwards, the growth of political currents pushing independence is the expression of multiplying social tensions. But these politics offer no positive perspective for the working class and poor.

The pro-independence parties and organizations use a radical language that doesn’t at all address the working class, neither in Catalonia nor anywhere else. The workers continue to suffer from low wages, unemployment, and more and more intense exploitation. In the factories, the public services, retail, the banking sector, tourism, or agriculture, workers have to declare if they are from Catalonia or Andalusia, or if they come from a different part of the country. It is a dangerous delusion to believe that someone has the right to better treatment because they were born in Catalonia or their family is Catalan. Asking about everyone’s origins divides the exploited – when they need to be united in order to assert their rights.

Many people in Catalonia have fallen into the trap of believing that they can find allies among their exploiters because they are of the same nationality. Puigdemont, the Catalan independence leader, is a bourgeois politician who defends anti-worker policies and is ready to negotiate for anything and against anything in order to participate in power. And his predecessor, Arthur Mas, is a high-finance swindler who was caught up in well-known scandals and who also tried to direct the anger of the exploited into dead-ends.

It is true that it’s necessary, throughout Spain, to fight the politics of the central government in power in Madrid, and to denounce the violence of the police directed by the Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy with the complicity of the Spanish Socialist Party. But we can’t stop there.

The repression organized by Rajoy and the effort today against those who oppose the government’s policies by proposing independence, can also be used to attack those who fight to defend the rights of workers. And it’s on all those problems that we must struggle: the budget cuts, the privatizations, the attacks against retirees.

Those like Puigdemont on one side, and those like Rajoy on the other, fight to better serve this or that fraction of the bourgeoisie. But they are all ready, one like the other, each one in his own way and on his own political terrain, to attack the workers.